Journalism in the real world: A six-month reflection

Well, I’m half way there. Today marks six months since I started living in this weird little place called “The Real World.” And it’s definitely been an interesting venture so far.

When I first started my job as a staff reporter, I was also working at a second internship, which I started around Thanksgiving. Needless to say, the real world kicked my ass. I was working about 50+ hours a week between the full-time gig and the internship, along with doing interviews for InsideSTL’s music section in what little downtime I had left.

About three months in, I gave up on trying to hold down a full- and part-time job and a sporadic writing gig. I quit my internship to focus on my full-time reporting job. (I still write pretty regularly for InsideSTL.) Even though I’m still trying to find things to do to fill my time on my Wednesdays off, I’m glad I went the path I did. I think I would have burned out way too fast if I tried keeping up at that pace.

The only problem is that now I feel like I have too much down time. I went from being a full-time student and part-time journalist (which, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as a “part-time journalist,” even at the college level) to a full-time journalist and somehow ended up with more down time than when I was in school.

I’m not constantly on the go anymore, despite spending the majority of my weeknights covering meetings. I don’t have some work or school-related task to take up every waking (and sleeping) hour of my life. It’s so… weird. So weird, in fact, that I even went back to SIUE to chat with the Mass Comm department chair about grad school. I really do want to return to school at some point and get a Master’s so I can be better equipped to reach one of my ultimate career goals (creating a magazine). But, unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

But anyway, to get off that tangent and back on track…

Life in the real world isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be (She says knowing everyone around her is saying, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!”). I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the transition from a college newsroom to a community newspaper newsroom was shocking, to be blunt. At the Alestle, we had a staff of roughly 20 to 30 to cover one college campus, not including the advertising department. Where I work now, we have a staff of about 10 to 12 including secretarial, advertising, part-time office workers, etc., where my editor and myself are the entire editorial staff.

The staff size alone was a shock, let alone the way stories ideas are generated. Most stories come from board meetings/agendas now. In college, the ideas came from talking to people, searching SIUE’s website, campus events, etc. I just thank the journalism gods that my former managing editor (and later editor in chief) stuck me on the student government beat back when I was a baby reporter. It prepared me more than I could have ever realized at the time.

One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make is having very few people to vent to about the frustrations of my first “real” journalism job. Back in college, my best friends worked for the paper too, so there was plenty of time to get out our frustrations in between editorial meetings, watching episodes of Archer in the office and random nights out of the office.

But when your closest journalism friends from college either don’t go into the industry after graduation, or they’re at least 45 miles away, the healthy venting time just isn’t there. And it makes the stress twice as hard to manage.

Even though I’ve made post-collegiate life sound like a depressing hell, I promise it’s not all bad. I am getting great experience and learning new things with every issue we publish. Because our staff is so frackin’ tiny, I also copy edit the entire paper and post a majority of our content online. The small staff does allow me to hone other skills I have but aren’t quite where they could be.

I’ve also been able to write some pretty cool stories. A member of British parliament was visiting Jefferson Barracks a few months back, and I had the opportunity to cover her visit and interview her. And, one of my first post-collegiate stories was about the one-year anniversary of a tornado that ripped through the city of Sunset Hills the previous New Year’s Eve.

So, it’s really not all that bad. But the transition is the hardest part. THE. HARDEST. PART. But you (read, “I”) can’t let the frustration wear you down. Because it will cloud your vision, and you won’t be able to see how much progress you’re able to make and how much you really are contributing to the media outlet(s) you work for.

But because (as far as I can tell) journalists are generally a pessimistic, dark and depressing bunch (with a wicked sense of inappropriate, yet always entertaining humor), I can’t very well end this post on a happy note. So, here we go: When I was texting one of my old Alestle friends about some of these issues, he texted me back John Mayer song lyrics. At first I thought it was funny and a little odd coming from him. But then I realized, it’s so true…


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